It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The ABC of Boundaries: Keeping the Narcissists at Bay

Exactly what are boundaries? And why are they important?

One of the best explanations of boundaries I have been able to find follows below in violet. And while it is written to address romantic relationships, it applies equally well to all types of relationships, including the one with your narcissistic mother, father, siblings…and other people in your life as well: friends, co-workers, employers, landlords, etc. You can find the whole text here.

In the physical world, boundaries are things that separate one thing from another, like walls that separate the outside of a house from the inside. Though they have no physical substance, psychological boundaries act very much like walls, by separating the private parts of people or relationships separate from the public parts. When an intimate relationship of any sort is occurring there is, in a manner of speaking, a psychological boundary around that relationship. The boundary is not there in any physical sense, of course, but nevertheless, secrets stay within the relationship as though there is a real wall holding them in place. It is trust that holds shared secrets in place and which creates the relationship boundary. If trust is betrayed, the boundary fails, and strangers get to learn the private details of the relationship. 

This is a boundary your NM understands, and understands very well: the boundary that keeps you quiet about what goes on behind closed doors. But like so many other things with your NM, it only goes one way—her way. It doesn’t matter if you are five, fifteen or fifty, she can blab all of the personal details about you that she wants but you are expected to keep mum about any- and everything that has even the slightest potential to hold your NM up in a bad light…or anybody else on her “Golden” list. Your NM finds absolutely nothing amiss in sharing the most intimate, embarrassing events from your life with her friends, your friends, even complete strangers. She will tell about ever transgression you ever committed, real or imagined, every childish misperception, your first period, about taking you shopping for a training bra, how she found out you were sexually active, what she overheard when you and your college boyfriend spent the night together in your old bedroom—anything and everything that she thinks will get and hold the attention of her listeners, no matter how badly it hurts or embarrasses you. In fact, your embarrassment is just a bonus for her…

But her betrayal of your intimate secrets, her abuse and disrespect of you does not, in her mind, break that boundary. Let you apply tit for tat and tell about finding strange men in her bed or a diaphragm in the bathroom when your dad was on a business trip or finding her crotchless panties mixed in with your undies in your drawer or how she conned grandma into disinheriting your uncle so she could get the whole estate, and she will blow a gasket. It is strictly a one-way street.

There are also psychological boundaries around each individual in a relationship. These individual boundaries have to do with self-determination and self-respect. They define each partner's right to keep some part of themselves separate from the relationship (to not let it define them utterly), and also to expect that their partner will treat them with respect. When these individual boundaries are intact and in place, the partners feel respected and cared for and not taken for granted. When they are broken by disrespectful actions (such as when one partner abuses the other, or makes unilateral decisions) they end up feeling abused.

This applies to parent-child relationships as well as adult romantic relationships. When your individual boundaries are not respected, are not even allowed to exist, you feel abused. We all have needs for privacy, autonomy, independence, and as we get older, the greater our need for them grows. We also have sexual boundaries from an early age. When any of those boundaries are routinely disrespected, we may have difficulty developing our own distinct personalities, likes and dislikes…even our own feelings. When a child says “I don’t like Uncle Jack!” the boundary-respectful thing to do is ask that child to tell you why. It may be something innocuous, like Uncle Jack ate the last piece of pie at dinner last night…and it may be something sinister like Uncle Jack has been touching the child inappropriately. Either way, the wrong thing to say is “What a terrible thing to say! You love Uncle Jack! Now stop that noise, you’re embarrassing me and besides, he’s baby sitting while Auntie Myrtle and I go to the movies!”

Boundaries are important because they help to define us, to know where “I” begin and somebody else, like our NMs, ends. “…without boundaries our identities become diffused – controlled by the definitions offered by others…

Boundary violations of any sort tend to cause relationship problems. When one partner's [or parents’] actions cause another to feel belittled, unimportant or abused, then that other partner [or child] is faced with the task of learning how to defend themselves.

One of the ways an NM will attempt to control you is not only to dictate your tastes (“Of course you like spinach, Effie…now clean your plate or you won’t get dessert…” “You don’t like yellow…it makes you look sallow…”), but to limit those very things that you need most as you grow and mature: privacy, autonomy, and independence. If she hasn’t convinced you by enmeshing with you, by convincing you that your tastes and desires, likes and wants are parallel to hers, she will move on to stronger tactics like curtailing and controlling those things you need most as you mature: she will make outrageous intrusions into your privacy, forbid you autonomy, stringently limit your independence. “The narcissistic mother will violate the normal boundaries of her children, making them feel like extensions of herself. She may give away the property of her child for no reason other than for control.”

Learning how to effectively defend yourself against unwanted intrusions is not as simple as it might first seem. It is, of course, necessary that you learn new ways of interacting with intrusive or abusive people which will cause them to back off and leave you alone. Less obviously, however, you also have to learn how to recognize and become aware that you are being intruded upon in the first place, and you must also decide that you are a worthy person who does not deserve to be invaded or treated badly. Until you master the latter two tasks, knowledge of the former will not do you much good…

Narcissistic parents violate our boundaries in countless ways, many of them subtle, many of them vehemently overt. A subtle violation could be making plans that include you without getting your consent beforehand, then provoking guilt when you decline. “But Aunt Marge is counting on you being there, Lucretia! Surely you can get out of that committee meeting at work…” An overt violation would be making plans that include you without checking with you first and then being punitive if you decline. “You will be there, young lady, or you can count on your birthday check this year being permanently lost in the mail…”

Narcissistic parents often try to control us simply through expectations. You have always done Thanksgiving and Christmas at Mom and Dad’s house, why should your being married and now having in-laws change that? Just bring the new husband along…or send him to his parents for the holiday alone. Narcissists are notoriously inflexible (unless it is their idea or they can see some benefit to themselves) and so your introduction of the idea of sharing the holidays with your new husband’s family may not be well-received. There may have been a sibling who tried to blaze the trail, so you have heard the feedback via such things as the Thanksgiving prayer that includes “…and thank you, Lord, for our loving family…except Mary, of course, who would rather be part of Brad’s family than ours now…”

The boundary violations that are expressed as silent expectations (that have consequences of guilt or wrath if you don’t comply) are perhaps one of the most common forms. They tend to be the most subtle and the most easily overlooked. Your mother calls and she “needs” you to come over right away—her voice sounds urgent but she won’t tell you what she needs you for. You leave a meeting—or a date—or your grocery cart—or your new lover—to rush to her side only to find out that she “needed” you to open a pickle jar, reach something on a high shelf, hang up a picture, or take her to get her nails done. And she is completely clueless as to why you might be annoyed because your compliance is expected, it is her “normal,” and that does not include you feeling inconvenienced or annoyed with her self-centeredness.

Some NMs expect their adult kids to call them every day, sometimes multiple times per day. Or they call their kids every day, often at critically inconvenient moments like while preparing or eating dinner or putting the children in the bath or to bed. Her disruption of your life and routine is inconsequential to her…because nothing in your life, including your kids, should be as important to you as she is. And if you reach the end of your rope and you lose it, telling her to back off, don’t call during dinner, don’t call every night, don’t be such a pest, you either get guilt-tripped or you get lambasted with her opinion of what an ingrate you are that you can’t spend five minutes on the phone with the woman who endured three days of labour pains to bring you into the world and who gave up a promising career to devote her time and energy, funds and youth to raising you.

One clue into recognizing when your boundaries are being assaulted is that she won’t take “no” for an answer…or that you have been cast into either a superior or subordinate position. Your compliance is expected and she either tries to browbeat or guilt you into acquiescence. You are not being treated as an equal with whom she negotiates or, if a negotiated agreement cannot be reached, withdraws gracefully and respectfully.

Once you know your boundaries are being violated, what do you do? It is easy enough to say “you set new boundaries with your NM and then you defend them,” but what, exactly, does that mean?

Let’s say your NM calls you three times a day and once she has you on the phone, she won’t hang up. This disrupts your work, your family life, your social life, and all of your attempts to get her off the phone meet with limited success, at best. If you take an abrupt tactic, like saying, “I gotta go Mom, my boss is headed this way,” and hang up the phone, on her next call she will be hurt that you hung up on her, so now you have to deal with that, as well.

So the first thing you do is you have to set a boundary with Mom…and for a boundary to work, it has to have a consequence (which you must enforce, or there is no point in doing this). For this Mom, you might call her and say “Mom, I need you to call me less often, and no more calls at work. I am going to make myself available to you from 6 pm to 6:15 every evening and you can call me then, but if you call any other time, I won’t pick up the phone.” This, of course, assumes you have Caller ID or some other way of knowing it is her. Then, you stick to it—if she calls at 10 in the morning, you simply do not pick up the phone.

Now, some NMs are crafty little weasels and try to come up with ways to get around your ban. If she figures out you are using Caller ID to monitor her calls, she may borrow a friend’s cell phone or call from an unknown location to get past that. So what do you do then? In the off change that this might be an emergency, the moment you recognize her voice you say (interrupting her, if necessary) “Is someone injured or dead? Why are you calling me at this time of day?” Of course someone in the family is sick or dying, you make the exception…but if they are not, you say… “Mom, I am at work and I can’t talk now. Call me this evening at our regular time,” then hang up on her.

You have to toughen up if you want to do this because she will redouble her efforts to re-take control of your relationship with her. Because by setting and enforcing boundaries, that is what you have done—you have taken control of the relationship: you are setting the ground rules, calling the shots, handing out consequences for violations of the rules. And having control wrested from their hands does not sit well with NMs, whether they are the ignoring or engulfing type, whether they are of the overwhelming bombastic variety or the sweet little old “butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth” kind. They want their relationship with you to be on their terms and by setting boundaries and enforcing them, you take the power away from them and they are guaranteed not to like it.

How your NM responds will be unique to her. Some will be indignant and call you out, others will pretend compliance and try to get around the new rules with feigned emergencies or pretended lack of understanding. Others will retaliate by withholding things they think are important to you while still others will comply superficially, but use the new situation as a source of Nsupply from their friends and family members. Some may even cut all contact with you in retaliation, but put the blame on you for the purpose of getting Nsupply from others. You are going to be the bad guy, make no mistake about it, but it is the only way you can reclaim control of your life, so you are going to have to deal with the censure as it comes.

It is not going to help to confront your NM about her sympathy seeking ways, in fact, it may exacerbate them if she knows it bothers you. The only confrontation is to be firm about the boundaries and if she violates them repeatedly, make the consequences more draconian than before. “If you call me at work one more time, I will not take a call from you for a week,” or whatever means enough to her to give her pause.

A friend of mine who is blessed not only with an NM but with an NMIL as well, constantly fields fantasy stories…truth re-imagined and re-written to make saints out of sinners, or phantasmagoric gossip that my friend knows is grossly exaggerated and sometimes even fabricated. Her two Ns are also Olympic-level complainers about everything and anything, which can be extremely wearing over a period of time. My friend has found it helpful to simply say to the N of the moment “I do not want to discuss Mr. Frisbee’s prostate surgery…or anybody else’s surgery, for that matter…and if you bring it up again, I will go home/turn the car around and take you home/hang up the phone…” She only had to follow through on her threat a few times for her NM and NMIL to get the point: respect her boundaries or there will be a consequence.

And that is the key to successful setting and maintaining boundaries with an N: make a boundary clear, announce the penalty for violation, then exact that penalty without hesitation or remorse. And if that doesn’t work, make the penalty stronger and keep escalating it until it does work.

The kinds of boundaries your NM may violate are legion. Let’s say you limit the amount of sweets your children are allowed to have and you hand them out as rewards for good behaviour, grades, completing chores, etc. And let’s say that when you let your kids spend a day with their grandparents, one set of grandparents respects your views on child rearing (even if she privately disagrees) and the other discounts and disrespects you completely, feeding your kids sugary cereals, giving them candy all day, and sugared soft drinks instead of milk with their meals. When you ask her not to do that, she tells you, “Oh, it’s OK, I’m Grandma and I’m allowed to indulge them!” Or suppose you go to the school to pick your child up and she’s gone, only to be told “Her grandmother picked her up,” and you don’t know which grandmother or why she came for your child. Suppose you have told your mother that your son cannot have violent video games because they affect his behaviour and she buys him the latest blood-and-guts game because “he wanted it and you can’t tell me what to get my grandbabies for Christmas…” All of these are examples of disrespectful behaviour towards you and your autonomy and all of them need boundaries set and enforced. And depending on how recalcitrant your NM is, the consequences you prescribe can be mild to a law-enforcement intervention severe.

I have heard of NMs coming into their adult daughter’s homes and rearranging the furniture, taking items from the home (including jewellery and clothing). I have heard of NMs, upon learning that their daughter is having a party to which they are not invited, showing up anyway, with friends in tow, virtually daring the daughter to shut the door in her face. I have heard of NMs inviting themselves along on vacations, honeymoons and second honeymoons, attempting to dominate wedding planning (even reserving a venue she liked but the bride didn’t). There is no aspect of your life that your NM cannot try to insert herself into, from your love life to your employment to your credit.

Some NMs, the more malignant ones, may go even further. I have heard of stolen identities, check fraud, tax fraud (claiming you as a dependent when you aren’t), credit fraud, trying to gain custody of grandchildren by smearing the reputation of the parent, false accusations of immoral and/or criminal activity. If this is how they react to boundary setting, then you are dealing with a more pathological personality and probably should give some serious consideration to going No Contact.

There is an old saying that “if you want something to change, you have to change something.” Your NM is not going to change how she interacts with you because it is working for her so, if it is not working for you, you are the one who has to change something. Setting boundaries is a really good place to start.


Next: Sanity and Perspective through Journaling


  1. Your paragraph starting with, "And that is the key to successful setting and maintaining boundaries..." is absolutely correct, IMO. It seems to me initiating Boundaries must begin with the firmly realistic perspective the N WILL violate your Boundary-expect it. There absolutely will be a backlash of some sort, whether it's a whining, waify response, a raging response or attempts to circumvent the Boundary a la, "Oh, I didn't know you meant THAT!" WILL result. (Believe me, they're pros at Selective Hearing/Interpretation/"Fine Print" etc.)
    Clearly some AC's have been successful at maintaining some kind of relationship with an N, but Boundaries are the key to keeping the AC safe, with some semblance of personal dignity, respect and integrity intact. Allowing a 2/3 yr. old to set the terms and conditions of a relationship is analogous to handing them the keys to your vehicle and expecting them to drive safely ;)
    I do feel there ARE alternatives to NC. I did not realize others felt there were no other options; there are and it seems to me Boundaries are where the re-ordering of the relationship begins. Hopefully, the AC will find them effective despite being time consuming and requiring considerable effort particularly initially.
    Thanks, Violet.

    1. Setting and maintaining boundaries is a time- and energy-consuming practice, but I think it is the only way to maintain contact without losing your sanity. I don't think LC can be successful without boundary setting and vigilant maintenance.

      Some people (like me) have to feel they have given a relationship (and the other person/people in it) every chance before they give up on it. Boundary setting is one way to do that without leaving yourself wide open to N attacks. It is also, I think, a good way for the DoNM to get very clear on the agenda of the N in question...whether the person cooperates with the boundaries or if she fights/ignores them tells you a lot about how things are going to ultimately shake out.

      Just as any other tactic used to deal with an N, boundary-setting can have repercussions...but if you want something to change, you have to change something and narcissists are notorious for not liking change (unless THEY initiate it, of course).

      But if you don't try, you never know...

  2. Excellent post!

    I started by trying to set boundaries. (I had NO CLUE what boundaries were before discovering NPD!) With every boundary, NM became enraged and acted inappropriately. I didn't feel I could trust her because of the outbursts and behavior, so I had to put up more boundaries. This went back and forth until she was so out of control we had to cut contact. Now she acts as though I cut her out as "punishment" (for a misdeed she "can't"/neglects to identify). They do not recognize that their actions have consequences. I think starting with reasonable boundaries is an excellent way to figure out whether someone is toxic!

    My young son just recently started saying "no tickles" when he has enough of the tickle game. It DELIGHTS me to stop and say okay. It's a surprising pleasure to respect my child's emerging boundaries. An unexpected treat in the life of a DONM mom!

    1. Sounds to me like you not only have a good handle on boundaries yourself, you have successfully imparted it to your son. And while he will eventually need to learn how to deal with people who don't respect his boundaries, you are obviously off to a good start.

      I think your response to your NM's escalation was the appropriate one. As noted in the blog entry, some NMs simply will not accept that YOU are now in control of the relationship and will go to great lengths to try to wrest control back from you. You used the right technique, increasing the consequences for violations until she was being so obnoxious that you had to cut contact...a circumstance I think many of us face. But you can walk away knowing in your heart that you went to great lengths to maintain some kind of relationship with her, even if she refused to cooperate. And I agree--setting boundaries and seeing how the other person responds to them is an excellent way to determine if someone is toxic or not.

      Sounds like you are doing well with this and I am happy for you!

  3. Thanks for this very clearly written post. I'll keep a note of it to revisit it :-). 'Now, some NMs are crafty little weasels..', this had me laughing, very funny! J.

  4. Well, some of them are...and you are most welcome!

  5. Just sent this in an email to you, Sweet Violet, but thought I would post this excerpt for visitors to this forum:

    Again, thanks for sharing your history of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of a NM. My family was more covertly narcissistic, My narcissistic dad had to spend a large part of my young life away from home on business. So, even though I was threatened with horrible consequences should I dare let one of his precious plants die while he was away for 6 months on location in some obscure part of the world, for the better part of my growing-up years I did not have to endure his emotional abuse (and rare-but-there physical abuse) on a day-to-day basis. God bless those of you who did have to deal with this daily and without relief.

    1. Thanks for your comment, VV, and I look forward to hearing from you again.



  6. My mother had every behaviour on the N spectrum, and I kept in contact with her on and off because it seemed as though she understood me when I was having problems, to some degree. Yet those particular problems were/are the very problems I needed to overcome in order to grow and make some sort of success of myself. And they are the precise same problems which have led to her being unable to function in society. I had to question what exactly it was that I was getting out of our conversations, other than a feeling of being patronized, and listening to bitching about relatives and her latest "best friend". I realised I was actually bored. She doesn't do anything with goals in mind...everything is done just for the purpose of her own entertainment and she has tended not to improve her skills as the years go by...I think her goal was just to find a husband who would provide for her, and that was that.
    The reason why Nism seems so prevalent amongst SAHMs, I think, is because they haven't anything in their lives outside the home to make them feel important. You do get it in a lot of blokes as well, of course. The way I deal with it is by becoming more selfish myself...I keep myself to myself a lot, because I can tell when people either enjoy listening to others' problems, or wouldn't be around for you if you had a problem. I haven't had a family of my own...I do the things I like to do, because the last thing I want to happen is for me to end up like my mother, with this and that regret about her life.

    1. I can remember once describing my NM as a person who was not happy unless she was unhappy. Her life just wasn't complete unless she was moaning or complaining or believing she was being beseiged by someone/something. Listening to my NM, you would think she had regrets about her life but if you really paid attention, you would see that was not it at all...she was simply a person who was not happy unless she had something to be miserable about. What you have said about your mother sounds eerily like my own--no goals, just wanted a man who would take care of her, living a life of complaining and gossiping and finding ways to entertain herself.

      Your last sentence, however, concerns me because it appears that you are living your life in reaction to hers. You have interpreted her as having an old age full of regrets, perhaps for things she did not do, and so now you live your life in fear of ending up the same way, which is NOT living independently, but in reaction to her. It is a slightly more sophisticated form of teenage rebellion, where you make choices not because they are the things you truly love and want, but because they are NOT the choices your parent would have made.

      There is a healthy level of selfishness in all of us. Narcissists are significantly more selfish than is healthy and they train their scapegoat children to be significantly less selfish than what is healthy. We need to learn to achieve that healthy level of selfishness for ourselves, to allow us to make good choices, to set and enforce boundaries, to engage in self-care that may have been denied us in childhood (medical, dental, hygeine, personal care, etc). But because our primary role model was one of an excess of selfishness, we must be careful not to let our own pendulums swing too far in the other direction. We may not be Ns ourselves, but we DO have fleas and to allow ourselves to become too selfish and self-indulgent is to simply adopt the selfishness flea into our own lives.

      Are you doing this? I don't know---only you do. But the fact that you say you are doing the things you like to do because you don't want to end up like your mother gives me concern that, in fact, you ARE doing exactly what your mother has done: live life without a goal save personal entertainment. Because you say little else of your life, I cannot tell if you have goals or direction or if you simply live your life doing whatever you feel like doing out of fear of having regrets later in life, as you perceive your NM. I seriously doubt she has real regrets because she has been living her life as she my NM, she very likely takes pleasure in being a self-identified victim who was "held back" by others when, in fact, it was of her own choosing and she makes herself look like a sympathetic character by blaming other people.

      And to make life choices primarily based on a reaction to another person's life is a tragedy because that would mean she still controls your life...only now she is in your head and controlling you from the inside.

      I sincerely hope the "selfishness" you claim to have adopted is the healthy variety that allows you to take care of yourself, set boundaries, and live a happy, healthy, satisfied life.

      Thanks very much for writing,


  7. Hello Sweet Violet. My name is Bree, I am 15 turning 16 in five months. I am writing to you because I've noticed some patterns that occur in the relationship I have with my mother. Lets see where do I start? Well, I came from a family of four including my dad, my mom, my sister and I. I lived a pretty normal life you could say, but the summer following my 8th birthday my whole word came crashing down. All I remember is coming home one day from school and seeing my mom and sister (who was 18 at the time), discussing something serious in the kitchen. I was sent to my room so I wouldnt hear it, but overheard it anyway. In a nutshell, my dad got caught in a lie about his relationship with another woman. We moved back to our homestate, and my father had us under the notion that him and my mom were working on their marriage. Instead, he dumped us on our own and decided to tell my mom later that he wasnt coming back and he had begun yet another relationship with some woman. My mom was heartbroken, and fell into a deep depression. She never opened her mouth except to cry. At only 9 yearz old, I had no time to process my grief because I took on the task of helping my mom through hers. Since then she has formed a sick dependency on me that involves her telling me almost every detail of her messed up childhood (she was raised by an NM), her anxieties, even graphic details of her relationship with my father. Since the age of seven (which was when the marital probems began) I have learned to shoulder every anxiety, every emotion, every problem my mom has. Apparently family members and friends noticed this early on and have even said something to her about this. Im the only one who is late in realizing how truly smothered I am. My mother has in every way joined herself to my hip, to the point where I have no social life. I talked to her about this, she lasted one day. The following day she responds to my boundaries by setting unreasonable rules. This is her way of keeping me under control. I cant explain to you how many nights I have stayed awake trying to figure out what was wrong with this picture, but now that I am finally individuating myself my mom is showing colors Ive never seen before. I am the golden child, I was never supposed to form my own opinions or ask for reasonable amounts of autonomy. My sister, who is the scapegoat, rebelled at 13 years and was labeled as the "problem child". My sister now 26 , still struggles with everyday life as a result of how sheltered she was as a child. I have been in counseling for two years, initially to help me come to terms with the divorce. Most recently, my counseliing has taken a turn. Now its all about helping me cope with a mentally ill mother, and I believe my mom is even threatened by my counselor. After having read this article and seeing the way it matches my situation, I am going to ask my counselor more about NPD and see if my mom has that, or just a baaaaaaadddddd case of the fleas. Thanks so much for the article, it has provided me with so much insight. Some have tried telling me that my problems are all about growing up, but I know better.There is a difference between a parent who is trying to come to terms with their child growing up, and a parent who controls their child and treats them with both parentification and infantilization their own benefit. I will not be led to believe that I am crazy, though I am young I know there is something very wrong here. I am just glad to know im not alone.

    1. Thanks for writing, Bree. It is important for you to realize that you mother may have been raised by an NM, she may even have been her mother's scapegoat, but she is showing very strong signs of being NPD herself. Some scapegoats buy into it and becomes Ns themselves although I suspect it is more common for Golden Children to do so.

      Your situation points up that the Golden Child does not necessarily live the privileged life so many scapegoats believe: many Goldens live in a golden cage, their every privilege carrying a heavy your case, parentification, enmeshment, and infantilization.

      I think asking your counselor about NPD is a good idea. You can read up on parentification here: You might also want to consider journalling (which can be done in a way your mother absolutely cannot find out) .

      Keep seeing your counselor and, because legally you have another 3 years in your mother's care, keep on with the "learning to cope" sessions. They can keep you sane. You are already clear that the problem is your mother, not you, so learning to cope with such a person is good for you not only now, but for the future when you meet up with bosses, coworkers, professors and fellow students who display NPD symptoms. Learning to individuate without outright rebellion is a valuable skill not only for now but for your future.

      Please feel free to keep in touch, Sounds to me like you have a good head on your shoulders and are moving in the right direction.



    2. Thanks very much, I read your story and Im sorry you were raised in such a terrible situation. You have inspired many people with your story including me and Im glad I stumbled across your blog. Your tips on journaling have proved helpful in keeping me sane. Though I do have 3 legal years left in my situation, I know i'll come out okay as so many other strong women like yourself. By the way, I noticed you might want a story from the perspective of the daughter of an engulfing NM. Anytime you want insight i'd be glad to offer it. Thanks again for all your advice and support.

      -Bree :-)

  8. A little background on me ~

    I was diagnosed with PH two years ago and am on 24 hour oxygen. I can get around fine and basically have a normal life, but cannot handle stress too well, and my husband helps me every day deal with simple tasks such a lifting, etc.

    I had an extra bedroom in our home before my illness that was being used as a guest room, but since we really don't have anyone come stay with us that often (maybe once a year) and most folks stay in a hotel (my mother did stay with me when this room was fixed up) I turned it into a closet for me to make my life easier and my husband took our closet in the bedroom. So no guest room anymore.

    The situation now is, I don't really want her to come stay with me anymore since I've changed over, and use a blow up mattress (no room for one), or disrupt any of my other rooms (den, etc.). I've politely told her that would stress me out, isn't ideal, and she needs to get a hotel (which is 10 minutes from us).

    Well, all hell broke loose and all she is doing to trying to make me feel guilty for not allowing her to stay, how she is my "mother", and she should be able to stay here, how she would never ask me to get a hotel if I stayed with her, etc., etc.

    I've stood my ground, told her I didn't understand why she was so angry, but this is what I needed, I was happy for her to come visit, but not stay in my house, it was too disruptive now for all of us, and easier if she "slept" someone else.

    I thought this was over (it happened a few months ago), but no matter how much i explained, she came up with another reason why I was being horrible and she should be able to stay. I even said I would pay for the hotel, she still won't do it.

    So I finally said then I guess she would not be visiting. I'm sorry she felt that way, all of our other relatives stay in a hotel just fine, that she was being rude, and I thought that was the end of it.

    Well she's back at it again....and I don't know what to do. If I just say no again, she will finally cut me off and not talk to me. If I say yes, then I will be miserable when she's here.

    Am I wrong to say no? I want to visit with my mother, I just want her to stay in a hotel, how is that bad?

    I'm 50 years old btw, if that matter.


    1. The most powerful word in the English language has only two letters: N and O, in that order.

      She is angry because she feels you are trying to take power over you away from her, which, BTW, is something you should have done more than 30 years ago.

      She is having a tantrum: nobody is allowed to do whatever they want, stay wherever they want, have whatever they want. She is also putting her selfish wants ahead of your needs and your health, a very UNmotherly thing to do.

      Only you can make the decision as to what to do, but let me ask you this: instead of being intimidated by her threats to "cut you off and not talk to you," have you tried threatening to do that to her? It looks to me like her talking to you just adds to your stress load: if you give in to her, she will stress you with her presence, if you don't give in, she will stress you with her continued demands that you give in. How about taking a different tactic altogether...there are other choices than the ones she is giving you. In your place I would say something like "If you pester me ONE MORE TIME about this, I am going to hang up the phone and I will NOT speak to you for six months."

      She is behaving like a spoilt child and you really have just two choices in how to deal with her: give in (which is what keeps her spoilt) or stand your ground and act like the adult--make a statement of your boundaries and tell her what the penalty for violation is, then stand your ground.

      Boundaries aren't is not enough to set them, you must enforce them, too. And if you let her violate the boundaries with impunity, you may as well not have them because she won't believe you when you announce a boundary...she will immediately test it and keep on testing until you give in. So, if you set a boundary with her, you MUST enforce it, regardless of the kinds of crap she throws your way.

      Now, please explain why her stopping talking to you is a bad thing. Sounds to me like she is an endless source of stress and if she stopped talking to you, it would reduce your stress. You are not five anymore...having your mother angry with you and ignoring you does not threaten your survival like it might have when you were little. It appears to me that your entire life, including your stress levels, would benefit from cutting those apron strings.

  9. Thank you for this comprehensive post. Have you ever had to tailor your advice to a situation where NM provides childcare and lives in the same home?

    1. No, because my advice, where narcissists and children are concerned, is always to keep the narcissist away from the children because the narcissist will influence the children against their own parents.

      Many people think they "have no choice" but to have an Nparent babysit but they do have other choices--those choices may be more expensive or less convenient, but they are choices. But think of it this way--if your NP was putting lit cigarettes out on your child's arm, would you continue to allow her to provide child care? Would you continue to live in the same home? If your N was scalding your child and raising burn blisters on the child, would you continue to live with her and allow her to mind the child while you are at work? Or would you find a way to get that N out of your child's life?

      That N is doing just as much damage to your child's mind and heart and psyche as pouring boiling oil over the child's head. It is just invisible until much later, when the child treats you with the same kind of contempt your N exhibits--and when that happens, it is already too late to fix it. This is not fixable, but it IS preventable and you prevent it by not allowing your child to be raised by an N--and if your N is spending more time with your kids than you are, then it is she who is raising them.


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